Monday, 25 February 2013

My Favourite Drinks

In one of my previous posts I mentioned New Year's resolutions - more specifically my inability to keep them. I think the trouble is most of them tend to be chores; difficult sacrifices that are, above anything else, not a lot of fun. And so at the start of this year I decided to lumber myself with a resolution that, apart from the financials involved, has no real downside - to always keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet. And it is my commitment to such a resolution that led to me enjoying a couple of my favourite drinks on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The things I do for you guys...
My first drink for you all is my idea of the perfect martini. I've started to make it my Friday night tradition - to come home, dump my stuff and reflect on a hard week of work with a martini in one hand and the TV remote in the other. I guess you could say I fancy myself a bit of a James Bond, only without the looks, wardrobe and sense of adventure, and if 007 got himself a job in marketing.
Start with a good quality gin. This stuff - The Botanist - is bloody fantastic. Crafted by a Scottish distillery, this one was a Christmas present from my fiancee. Girl done well.
Over the past few months I've been experimenting with different measures and mixes and this one just does it for me. Pour three shots of a good gin and one shot of dry martini (or vermouth) into a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and give it a good shake.
Pour over lemon peel into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a few olives on a cocktail stick. The lemon is up to you, the olives are compulsory. That, my friends, is my perfect martini.
This next drink I first discovered in a bar in Manchester. I ordered it on the advice of a barman and although it wasn't cheap (£13 is arguably a lot to spend on 50ml of liquid...), it was indeed damn good. It's called The Godfather and it's as simple as it is brilliant.
Mix equal parts amaretto with Bulleit Bourbon. That's it. Told you it was easy. The bourbon cuts through the sweetness of the amaretto, and the amaretto just takes the edge off the bourbon. This is, quite simply, the perfect drink. Try it. Trust me.
So that's what I got for you today. A couple of my favourite drinks that I couldn't recommend highly enough. Give them a go. If nothing else, they will make for an absolutely fantastic Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Slow. Cooked. Two words that, when used separately, are not particularly exciting. But put them together, and I challenge anyone to not start licking their lips. Follow 'slow cooked' with 'barbecue beef'...and wow. Just wow. It quite simply does not get any better.
I have a confession to make, and as a food blogger it's a relatively embarrassing one at that. Because I cooked this on Super Bowl Sunday, what with all of the excitement from the buildup to the game (beers), I was a little bit distracted (tipsy) and can't exactly recall all of the ingredients involved. Fear not - I have an outstanding memory. Anyway, I have a confession to make, and as a food blogger it's a relatively embarrassing one at that...
I originally intended on using beef brisket for this recipe, but unfortunately my local butchers didn't have any available. The young chap did, however, recommend this nice piece of topside beef and not wanting to walk away empty-handed I obliged. It worked beautifully. I started with a piece that was just over a kilo in weight - bang it in a tray on top of some sliced leeks or a couple of onions.
Homemade barbecue sauce. Unbelievably simple and totally delicious. Dice one large white onion and three garlic cloves. Sweat them off in a dash of vegetable oil and then add 2 tbsps brown sugar, a tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce, tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp red chilli flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 10 minutes or so and then blend until it's smooth.
Pour half of the BBQ sauce over the beef, then stick it in the oven at about 140C for 2 1/2 hours or so, until the beef is nice and tender when you stick a fork in it. Leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes whilst you start putting together your dry rub (a dub dub).
Most rubs go on before the cooking, but I wanted to try something a bit different because, why not? By coating the beef and then quickly searing, the thin slices of beef will retain all of the flavours and spices of the rub, and will give you a nice kick when eating. For the rub, mix 3 tbsps black pepper, 2 tbsps salt, 1 tbsp each of sugar and onion powder, 2 tsps garlic powder, 2 tsps chilli powder. Mix it all up and massage it into the beef like it's the love of your life.
In a hot pan, sear the beef on all sides so you get a nice charred bark. The smells will be outstanding. Now is when you can start patting yourself on the back for making awesome food.
Slice the beef thinly, then add to a hot pan with a spoonful of the barbecue sauce that you set aside earlier. Heat it through quickly, the beef will start to tear apart. You'll know it's done when the drooling is too much to bear.
Chuck it in a seeded bun, serve with coleslaw and your favourite beans. Slow-cooked perfection.

for the barbecue sauce...
1 large white onion
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsps brown sugar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp red chilli flakes
salt & pepper

for the rub...
2 tbsps black pepper
2 tbsps salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsps garlic powder
2 tsps chilli powder

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Banoffee Pie

This is a post 4 years in the making. Back in 2009, when I was still a student living in Manchester, a couple of good American friends of mine took a break from backpacking around Europe and dropped by for a weekend of hangovers. When they first arrived, I remember having nothing to feed them apart from half of a banoffee pie that I'd made a couple of nights earlier. And so, we cracked open a few cold beers, each grabbed a fork, and got stuck in over countless tales of cheap lager, beer pong and water balloon launchers. Great times. Anyhow, the pie was a hit, and since then I've been peppered with requests from them both to make another a ship it over to them. Now I can't (be bothered to) do that, so this is the next best thing.
This is a recipe that I've always loved, but haven't been able to make for awhile because my fiancee has had an aversion to (bordering on fear of) bananas for as long as I can remember. Seriously. As in you could chase her out of the room with one if you felt inclined to do so. But she got some help, and she's seeing a really good bag of granola - we think she's on the mend.
Take 250g of digestive biscuits and blitz them up with 100g of butter, until you've got a nice damp crumble mixture. I prefer chocolate digestives because...chocolate.
Press the crumbs down into a pie mould or cake tin and then leave in the fridge to chill for about half an hour. If you're like me and are stuck for space in your fridge then this is the perfect opportunity for a clear out/buffet.
Melt 100g of butter in a saucepan along with 100g of brown sugar and once the sugar has dissolved add a tin of condensed milk. I had this jar of confiture du lait that my parents brought back from France and I substituted this for the condensed milk. Feel free to do the same but expect me to aggressively question you as to why my parents are bringing you presents back from France.
This stuff was a bit of a mystery to begin with as it was gifted to me with this accompanying sentence - 'We don't know what this is but we think you'd like it.' I did like it. It's basically a caramel sauce made with milk and sugar. You simply cannot go wrong.
Bring the sugar, butter and condensed milk mixture to the boil, stir for about a minute and then spread evenly over your buttery biscuit base. Refrain from sticking your face in the hot caramel and shove the pie in the fridge for about an hour to cool. It's so shiny you can even see my face. Grim.
Once the pie has cooled, slice two big bananas and then spread the pieces across the caramel. Go as heavy or as light on the bananas as you like here - as we're still weening the missus onto the things I only did one layer, but you can stack them as high as you like.
YOU'RE SO CLOSE! Mix a carton of whipping cream with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract and using a hand mixer, whip until it's a thick cream. Dollop and spread over your pie, then grate chocolate on top. Buy a nice bar of milk chocolate, or use leftover Xmas choccies. It's your call.
And that's your banoffee pie folks. Slice it up, serve it up, eat it up. 


250g digestive biscuits
200g butter
100g brown sugar
1 tin condensed milk
2-3 bananas
carton of whipped cream
2 tsps vanilla extract
chocolate for grating

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Super Bowl Drinks

It's only Super Bowl Sunday. One of the best days, in my opinion. A day when the TV is overrun with pointless yet captivating sports punditry, copious amounts of cheese-flavoured, cheese-covered or cheese-filled foodstuffs are at constantly at the ready, and day-time drinking is not only accepted, but almost forcibly encouraged. It's like the end-of-year party, the big blowout after 20 weeks of football Sundays, reminding us all that from now on the weekends might actually have to be productive. I - for one - cannot wait until September. In the meantime, I made some cocktails today.
I wanted to make some drinks that represented the teams playing - Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. My first thought was to go with flavours from those particular cities, but I hit a bit of a brick wall with Baltimore - no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't turn crab into something that a normal human would want to drink - and so I decided to go with their respective primary team colours, purple and red.
I blitzed up some blueberries with a spoonful of sugar, a squeeze of fresh orange juice and a dash of water, then strained the mix into a bowl to remove the pips and nasty stuff. Pour into a tupperware or small jug.
Every good cocktail needs a name, and this one will go by 'Purple Drank'. If you know what that mean, good on you. If not, why not have a little google and find out? Not that I'm suggesting that my cocktail will have any long-lasting effects...but I'm glad I've got tomorrow booked off. REAL Purple Drank calls for Jolly Ranchers, and we can buy them here in the UK. To keep the gimmick legit I bought a packet of Glacier Fruits and left a couple purples to dissolve in the juice mixture. Mix two parts juice to one part vodka and one part rum. Shake it up and enjoy.
Representing the San Fran contingent, a mixture of pomegranate seeds, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, the squeeze of a lime and a double shot of vodka. You might call this a vodka and pomegranate juice, I'm calling it the 'Mr. Alex Smith'. That's all for now. Go start tailgating, perhaps make some mozzarella sticks or a couple of burgers ready for the game. Whatever you do, make sure you do it with drink in hand. After all, next weekend will be different.


Purple Drank
handful of blueberries
granulated sugar
fresh orange juice
purple boiled sweets
1 x vodka
1 x rum
i also may or may not have added a dash of food colouring...

Mr. Alex Smith
pomegranate, juice and seeds
lime juice
2 x vodka